Mayan Hot Chocolate – From History to Your Home

Like flamin’ hot everything these days, Mayan hot chocolate is all the rage. A sip of this popular hot chocolate reveals a smooth, slightly spicy, mostly sweet cocoa. (Some places call this Aztec hot chocolate, too.)

DIY Mayan Hot Chocolate Recipe

The easiest, best way to make Mayan hot chocolate any time is by keeping a jar of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory’s chipotle Cocoa Loco. But, if you want to spice things up all by yourself:

Mayan hot chocolate


 ¾ cup whole milk

¼ cup cream

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory Cocoa or European Dark Cocoa

1 pinch dried cayenne, chipotle, or red chili

Special (Optional) Additions: 

1 oz. dark chocolate chopped or 1 semi-sweet chocolate truffle

1 ½ oz. Mezcal

Garnish with whipped cream, cinnamon, and a pepper slice


European Dark CocoaMayan Hot Chocolate - Hot Cocoa Recipe

Heat whole milk and cream in a saucepan over moderate to low heat until hot. Stir frequently. Do not boil.

Add cocoa powder.

(If you are adding a truffle or chopped chocolate, stir in until melted.)

Remove from heat. Sprinkle in spices.

Whisk vigorously until a lightly foamy.

Garnish as desired.

Is Spicy Hot Chocolate Really Mayan?

This zingy “Mayan” hot chocolate is an exhilarating chocolate treat. However, is it actually all that Mayan? The zesty spices are consistent, but ancient Mayan hot chocolate was much different. It was bitter and lacked the creamy comfort modern cocoa drinkers covet. So, how did we get from ancient Mesoamerica to your local café?

The History of Mayan Hot Chocolate

Mayan Temple- Mayan hot chocolate

Pottery shards from a San Lorenzo archeology site show that ancient Mesoamericans, likely the Olmecs, began consuming cocoa between 1800 and 1000 B.C.E.

Chocolate played a major role in Mayan society. They called chocolate the “food of the gods.” They worshipped a cacao god, used cocoa beans as currency, and drank chocolate drinks during religious ceremonies. The Mayans called this drink chacau haa. It was a beverage reserved primarily for royalty, while Mayan commoners only drank chacau haa during rare ceremonies, such as weddings and holidays.

Like modern chocolate, the Mayans fermented, dried, and ground the cocoa beans into a paste. They blended it with water and chili peppers for a chocolate beverage. Additional ingredients were based on the ceremony. Recipes might have included wine, honey, vanilla, and ground maize. The chocolate mixtures were poured back and forth between two containers until frothy.

When the Spanish brought chocolate back from the New World, Europeans did not take immediately to the bitter drink. Eventually, it became popularized by adding cream, sugar, and other flavorings.

Recently, chocolatiers and cafes have adapted the spicy Mayan elements to hot cocoa.

Mayan Hot Chocolate and Mole

Mole, a relative of Mayan hot chocolate

Mole (mo-lay) is a complex, savory sauce from southern Mexico made with chocolate. Legend has it that the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla invented mole in the colonial period. (Other versions feature a frenzied monk.) The nuns scurried to create something spectacular with local ingredients for the visiting archbishop. They prayed for inspiration and pulled together odds and ends, including chocolate, chili peppers, and spices. The dish was a hit.

Mole is used over meat or as a stew base. Although many jarred or modern moles omit the expensive chocolate star, most celebrated and traditional moles—Mole Poblano, Oaxacan mole negro, and Poblano de Guajolote—contain chocolate.